SEO

Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

We all know by now that over-optimized anchor text was a huge factor for sites that were dinged by the Google Penguin update. We’ve seen a case study of what is natural when it comes to anchor text back in May with websites in the boating industry. But now that Penguin has had some time to settle in, let’s see what sites are still ranking at the top of the first page of search results in seven highly competitive industries and how their anchor text stacks up in the natural versus over-optimized department, plus additional details about their domain authority and link building strategy.

For this experiment, please note we used Google.com, Safari not logged in to a Google account, location set to Maine (to bypass lots of local search results), and a fully cleared cache. We also skipped Wikipedia and similar sites to focus on those that probably did some heavy lifting in the link building department to get to the first page. Data provided by SEMrush and CognitiveSEO.

Online College

Online College 637x267 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

First, let’s look at the education industry, particularly online colleges. The keyword online college is extremely competitive with an estimated CPC of $55.48 and approximately 1,810,000,000 search results.

OnlineCollege.org (ranked #1)

  • 8,830 total backlinks for the domain
  • 68/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 6,244 links analyzed from 1,774 referring domains
  • 24% exact match anchor text for online college
  • 86% dofollow backlinks
  • 97% text links
  • 96% deep backlinks
  • 74% links on .com TLD, 5% links on .org TLD

Devry.edu (ranked #2)

  • 31,000 total backlinks for the domain
  • 84/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 7,555 links analyzed from 2,940 referring domains
  • 0% exact match anchor text for online college
  • 91% dofollow backlinks
  • 84% text links
  • 95% deep backlinks
  • 68% links on .com TLD, 4% links on .edu TLD

Strayer.edu (ranked #3)

  • 17,000 total backlinks for the domain
  • 71/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 5,851 links analyzed from 2,576 referring domains
  • 1% exact match anchor text for online college
  • 91% dofollow backlinks
  • 92% text links
  • 95% deep backlinks
  • 72% links on .com TLD, 4% links on .edu TLD

Women’s Clothing

Womens Clothing 637x178 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

Next on the list is the fashion industry. The keyword women’s clothing is competitive with an estimated CPC of $1.47 and approximately 75,300,000 search results.

Kohls.com/kohlsStore/womens.jsp (ranked #1)

  • 209,000 total backlinks for this page only
  • 80/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 642 links analyzed from 177 referring domains
  • 1% exact match anchor text for women’s clothing
  • 46% dofollow backlinks
  • 61% text links
  • 96% deep backlinks
  • 76% links on .com TLD

Overstock.com/Clothing-Shoes/Womens-Clothing/213/dept.html (ranked #2)

  • 2,725 total backlinks for this page only
  • 88/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 236 links analyzed from 78 referring domains
  • 19% exact match anchor text for women’s clothing
  • 77% dofollow backlinks
  • 82% text links
  • 96% deep backlinks
  • 89% links on .com TLD

ColdwaterCreek.com (ranked #3)

  • 130,000 total backlinks for the domain
  • 68/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 7,246 links analyzed from 2,481 referring domains
  • Less than 1% exact match anchor text for women’s clothing
  • 87% dofollow backlinks
  • 89% text links
  • 97% deep backlinks
  • 84% links on .com TLD

Real Estate

Real Estate 637x333 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

The real estate industry varies in competition when you look at local factors, but in this case we’re just looking at it on a national level. The keyword real estate is competitive with an estimated CPC of $0.96 and approximately 1,920,000,000 search results.

Realtor.com (ranked #1)

  • 1.6 million total backlinks for the domain
  • 93/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 6,513 links analyzed from 3,123 referring domains
  • 1% exact match anchor text for real estate
  • 95% dofollow backlinks
  • 74% text links
  • 74% deep backlinks
  • 86% links on .com TLD

RealEstate.com (ranked #2)

  • 132,000 total backlinks for the domain
  • 84/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 4,224 links analyzed from 2,099 referring domains
  • 12% exact match anchor text for real estate
  • 91% dofollow backlinks
  • 82% text links
  • 71% deep backlinks
  • 82% links on .com TLD

Zillow.com (ranked #3)

  • 3.4 million total backlinks for the domain
  • 95/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 8,282 links analyzed from 2,802 referring domains
  • 3% exact match anchor text for real estate
  • 97% dofollow backlinks
  • 45% text links
  • 86% deep backlinks
  • 78% links on .com TLD

Mortgage

Mortgage 637x434 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

Closely related to the real estate industry is mortgage loans. The keyword mortgage is competitive with an estimated CPC of $4.34 and approximately 667,000,000 search results.

Bankrate.com/mortgage.aspx (ranked #1)

  • 23,000 total backlinks for this page only
  • 3,130 links analyzed from 1,169 referring domains
  • 1,169 referring domains
  • 96/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 25% exact match anchor text for mortgage
  • 70% dofollow backlinks
  • 97% text links
  • 94% deep backlinks
  • 75% links on .com TLD

Zillow.com/mortgage-rates/ (ranked #3 after Wikipedia)

  • 3 million total backlinks for this page only
  • 5,062 links analyzed from 1,387 referring domains
  • 95/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 1% exact match anchor text for mortgage
  • 91% dofollow backlinks
  • 97% text links
  • 83% deep backlinks
  • 91% links on .com TLD

MortgageCalculator.com (ranked #4)

  • 84,000 total backlinks for the domain
  • 7,090 links analyzed from 2,285 referring domains
  • 72/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 1% exact match anchor text for mortgage
  • 95% dofollow backlinks
  • 60% text links
  • 88% deep backlinks
  • 85% links on .com TLD

Payday Loans

image005 637x187 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

Last month, we dissected the payday loan industry’s anchor text for websites ranking  in the U.K. Now we’ll look at some sites ranking in the U.S. The keyword payday loan is competitive with an estimated CPC of $16.51 and approximately 78,200,000 search results.

PayDayOne.com (ranked #3 after Wikipedia and YouTube)

  • 27,000 total backlinks for the domain
  • 66/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 10,000 links analyzed from 2,584 domains
  • 12% exact match anchor text for payday loans
  • 86% dofollow backlinks
  • 99% text links
  • 94% deep backlinks
  • 48% links on .com TLD, 15% on .org TLD

CashFairy.com (ranked #4)

  • 137 total backlinks for the domain
  • 26/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 137 links analyzed from 32 referring domains
  • Less than 1% exact match anchor text for payday loans
  • 94% dofollow backlinks
  • 71% text links
  • 90% deep backlinks
  • 77% links on .com TLD

1min-PayDayLoan.com (ranked #5)

  • 8,901 total backlinks for the domain
  • 49/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 8,528 links analyzed from 6,563 domains
  • 30% exact match anchor text for payday loans
  • 100% dofollow backlinks
  • 100% text links
  • 69% deep backlinks
  • 52% links on .ru TLD, 24% on .com TLD

Life Insurance

Life Insurance 637x193 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

While there are lots of different types insurance, we decided to focus on life insurance for the insurance industry. The keyword life insurance is competitive with an estimated CPC of $36.32 and approximately 533,000,000 search results.

Metlife.com/individual/insurance/life-insurance/index.html (ranked #2 after Wikipedia)

  • 2,089 total backlinks for this page only
  • 88/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 821 links analyzed from 257 referring domains
  • Less than 1% exact match anchor text for life insurance
  • 70% dofollow backlinks
  • 84% text links
  • 96% deep backlinks
  • 81% links on .com TLD

Geico.com/getaquote/life/ (ranked #4 after a .gov site)

  • 2,042 total backlinks for this page only
  • 86/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 660 links analyzed from 235 referring domains
  • 3% exact match anchor text for life insurance
  • 56% dofollow backlinks
  • 72% text links
  • 98% deep backlinks
  • 78% links on .com TLD

Farmers.com/life_insurance.html (ranked #5)

  • 8,419 total backlinks for this page only
  • 84/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 475 links analyzed from 183 referring domains
  • 23% exact match anchor text for life insurance
  • 82% dofollow backlinks
  • 93% text links
  • 95% deep backlinks
  • 82% links on .com TLD

DUI Lawyer

Dui Attorney 637x249 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

Last, but not least, we’re going to take a look at the legal industry. The keyword DUI lawyer is competitive with an estimated CPC of $41.45 and approximately 6,430,000 search results.

DUI-Lawyer.com (ranked #1)

  • 438 total backlinks for the domain
  • 37/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 438 links analyzed from 162 referring domains
  • Less than 1% exact match anchor text for dui lawyer
  • 86% dofollow backlinks
  • 93% text links
  • 90% deep backlinks
  • 74% links on .com TLD

Avvo.com/topics/166-dui (ranked #2)

  • 214 total backlinks for this page only
  • 85/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 17 links analyzed from 8 referring domains
  • Less than 1% exact match anchor text for dui lawyer
  • 100% dofollow backlinks
  • 100% text links
  • 100% deep backlinks
  • 94% links on .com TLD

TopGunDUI.com (ranked #3)

  • 4,897 total backlinks for the domain
  • 42/100 SEOmoz domain authority
  • 733 links analyzed from 254 referring domains
  • Less than 1% exact match anchor text for dui lawyer
  • 84% dofollow backlinks
  • 83% text links
  • 95% deep backlinks
  • 89% links on .com TLD

Major Takeaways

So, what can we take away from the link building analysis of different industries and websites ranking at the top of the first page? Here are just a few things:

  • Having a strong authority will help you rank for your keywords regardless of how often you use them as anchor text.
  • Don’t want to tip off Google by using the exact keyword phrase you want to rank for in your anchor text? Mix it in with your brand name or other long-tail keywords. Also target single and plural forms as needed.
  • Make sure your brand / business name gets a good majority of your anchor text.
  • Exact match domains are still OK if the content on them is quality.
  • Some industries and related keywords can be completely unpredictable when it comes to the number of links needed to rank at the top of search results. The sites with less than 1,000 backlinks for payday loans and DUI lawyer, for example, were not even ranking well because of local search considering none of them were located in or near Maine.

What do you think of this analysis? What other takeaways did you gain from it? Please share in the comments!

85be724467824b7ef1ef39625eb8790d 64 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD
He is the proud Founder & Chief Architect of cognitiveSEO, an SEO Toolset focused on in-depth analysis of ranking signals. With over 8 years experience in affiliate marketing and search engine optimization and 12 years in programming and web development, he has gone from Web Developer to Super Affiliate for large international networks. With a strong focus on everything that is Search Engine related, he developed strategies to stand-out search engine updates. His passion for search engine marketing led him to create his own SEO Toolset, trying to solve the issues that he is facing in the search engine optimization field.
85be724467824b7ef1ef39625eb8790d 64 Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

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37 thoughts on “Anchor Text Analysis: Post “Penguin” and EMD

  1. really interesting research highlighting exactly what does and doesn’t affect ranking….or could. definitely an interesting look in to exact match anchor. ill be raking a closer look for clients sites and localized services

  2. Just commenting to follow up comments by mail. I’d love you can do this for your posts without has to comment.

  3. Really interesting analysis, thanks. I thought the most insightful takeaways were the fact that the maximum exact anchor text was 30% although most of them were considerably lower than that, and also the high number of deep links each site had.

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  4. Thanks for linking to my previous study. :)

    Nice analysis – looks like most of the sites have exact match anchor text of about 1%, but some are in the 10-30% range – I wonder how close those higher ones are to the penalty threshhold? There is no way to know, of course, but I do wonder. If natural sites are around 1%, sites with 20-30% are pretty far away from natural.

    Did you happen to calculate branded and/or URL anchor text percentages for these sites?

    1. my pleasure Adam. great post there. the branded anchor % was not calculated … but this gives me an idea that i will share in my next post. obviously some are EMDs some are Brands with no EMDs. the calculation would need to take this in consideration too.

  5. Hell Mr.Razvan Gavrilas,

    I’m working in SEO industry from last 19 months. Mean while Google updated it’s algos many time. Panda, Penguine, and EMD, I’ve seen them all. I Learn something new after every update by seo folks like you. Your post is good and I found it very practical. But there is only one point that I don’t Understand. Can you elaborate it for me?
    This is it:
    Some industries and related keywords can be completely unpredictable when it comes to the number of links needed to rank at the top of search results.

    Where are you getting at?

    1. means the number of links you might need differs from niche to niche and the competitivness of the keyword. also each niche has different link profile patterns meaning that if in niche A a 90% footer link profile might be ok in niche B a 90% link profile could bring you an unntural link penalty.

  6. Thanks for the break down of the anchor text ratio. Additionally, I think it would have been wonderful if you also included the ratio of brand anchor text links.

    Thanks again for putting the stats together!

  7. I have been using exact match regional domain and i am still #6 in my region, i never built any links for the domain, Building links on brand is difficult for as it is my domain name, so considering more long tail kws.

    nice analysis

    1. it really depends on teh niche. in some cases 10% in other 50%. so i really do not think there is a general rule … but the rules bend based on link profile evolution in each niche individually with a few exact filters that might indicate SPAM to Google.

  8. Thank you Razvan.
    A very imported research, and you shared it with us on the best time.

    Wish you all the best

  9. Yeah, it really looks that domain authority is key. Other than that, I’ve also noticed that deep links are vital as well. I think that I as an SEO should create more deep links now. The first idea is to monitor keywords for my posts (via Google Alerts) and do my best to obtain links from other blogs to my specific posts. Does that sound legit?

    1. sounds pretty organic. it should be fine.

      the final key is domain authority… the way google calculates that … and then the rankings will come. imagine if a domain like cnn.com would write an article about almost anything in this world they would rank top 10 almost instantly and stay there for a while too.

      that is because they grew steadily and receive a lot of deep back links to their inner pages.

  10. I think it’s important to point at the none of these sites have a majority percentage of exact match anchor text, even if they do have exact match or keyword rich domains. As you point out (and Google said) it’s low-quality EMDs that are in trouble. But I would say it’s better to err on the side of caution and really vary up the anchor text you’re using.

    1. Nick,

      hmmm. look at the “Online College” example. that is EMD with a lot of EMD anchor but indeed a good quality site.

      there are so many EMDs with low quality content still ranking. it all depends on the niche.

  11. Great post i like the detail of ur analysis. Your goal was to find out what really works well in competitive niches. Your findings are not out of the ordinary: You need a strong domain with a natural link profile. EMDs are still ridiculously strong. Not much news in that tbh. If you focus on SEO as a part of Online MARKETING, bringing your brand in there should be a nobrainer.

    A little input for further analysis (if you have the time ;) ): Differentiate the subjects of your research: Real business with a direct product or service vs. affiliate SEOs without a brand or direct B2C/B2B purpose. Look at some long-tailier Keywordsets from those niches. Some that are dominated by affiliates and analyze THOSE backlink profiles. The comparison of Brand and SEO Backlink profiles is the key in my opinion. Showing one without the other is like claiming peas are beans. ;)

    So what this analysis really shows is the best way to build your link profile IF you are have a brand/product/direct service to sell in highly competitive niches. Hope to have that comparison coming our way soon! :) There are different kind of niches out there with different sets of tools of choice.

    1. Ingo,

      Affiliate vs Direct SEO is indeed another issue as Google is trying to identify LQ sites in terms of time spent on site and affiliate ones are kind of left behind when the user clicks out to the affiliate offer. ( can be tracked in various ways … ) I will take this in consideration for a future post.

      And again Each Niche is Different. Each Profile is Different … as in nature the ocean vs a sea have a lot of similarities and a lot of discrepancies. SO the question would be from a Google point of view … which one is natural ? (lol)

      PS: Sorry for the late reply but I did another one which for whatever reason did not appear here.

      1. SO looking forward to that analysis. :) In my humble opinion, the last few updates did a pretty good job when it comes down to differentiating between affiliate and real business sites.

        What I am seeing is that it works well when there are enough big and “natural” competitors. When it comes down to small not so competitive niches the problem still exists.

        Thx for your reply.

  12. Hey,

    Its a good analysis. It seems that Google penguin and EMD update is not hitting to Big websites like .edu domains ? right ?

    Thanks

    1. it really depends. usually .EDUs are acquired only by Universitties so procentually speaking they would not be interested in doing SEO directly. Not many LQ .EDU domains that I know of :)

  13. Regarding your exact match anchor text data, I’m thinking it might be useful to check out partial matches in anchor text as well. Take the “Online Colleges” example, 0 and 1 percent probably isn’t representative of the influence of inbound anchor text on those rankings, I would think. It may be, but I tend to think anchor text is still a huge factor in most rankings.

    Also, Title tag might be insightful. Not surprisingly Devry.edu has “On Campus & Online College Degree Programs” as their title tag.

    Also an interesting point, for OnlineColleges.com to still rank #1 for such a competitive term, with much less domain authority than its nearest competitor, lends credence to both the exact anchor text and exact match domain argument.

    Thanks for pulling this together!

    1. EMD still rule despite the latest update and what the “world” says. I have seen a ton of cases where EMDs like this one with a few ref domains fight and win with sites with thousands of ref domains.

      Regarding the other things you mentioned: there are a ton of factors that influence a ranking. I tried to evidentiate those listed here.

  14. Yep, safe to say “use anchor text,” but i would have never thought it could help you to the point where one could be ranked higher then another even with thousands less back links & authority. Guess I learn something new everyday,

  15. I think the key here is making the high authority site somehow better for the user, maybe more interactive or adding more stickiness to it, like a forum, videos, getting readers more involved IMO